Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Veteran actor Ian McDiarmid, who played the cameo role of Palpatine in Obi-Wan Kenobi, apparently ruined his return to the Star Wars franchise. In the season finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi, two fan-favorite characters return: Obi-Wan’s Jedi teacher Qui-Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neeson, and Emperor Palpatine, played by Ian McDiarmid. Although such cameos are usually carefully concealed, McDiarmid seems to have revealed the Sith Lord’s involvement in an interview at the Imperial Commissariat Collectors convention.
Ian McDiarmid is best known for his role as Emperor Palpatine, appearing in all Star Wars films except Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, Palpatine plays a small but vital role in Vader’s development into an experienced villain, whom we will see later in A New Hope. Vader is still in the training stage, and Emperor Palpatine’s cameo proves that he is not yet fully responsible.
While Palpatine’s cameo in Obi-Wan Kenobi may have come as a surprise to most fans, some viewers may have been spoilt by the teaser in Ian McDiarmid’s May 2022 interview. At the congress of collectors of the Imperial Commissariat, McDiarmid said: “There will be a certain show soon, the action of which takes place around the time that I may have considered very active… Whether you will see my physical body or not, I cannot comment. But you will definitely feel my presence” (via Star Wars News Net). Indeed, Emperor Palpatine is a force to be reckoned with during the events of Obi—Wan Kenobi, and although he is not physically on Mustafar, he is present in the hologram. Thus, McDiarmid could have given the game away earlier than expected.
Despite this announcement in May, McDermid appears to have retracted his comments in a later appearance on Star Wars Celebration 2022. When asked about Palpatine in Obi-Wan Kenobi, McDermid said: “Expecting the Emperor to appear in flesh and blood soon, don’t get your hopes up” (via YouTube). It could also have been a cheeky comment regarding his actual appearance in the Disney+ series. Many fans also thought it could be applied to Andor, which follows the adventures of rebel Cassian Andor before the events of Rogue One.
It is currently unknown if MacDiarmid will reprise Palpatine in any other future Star Wars installments. It is quite possible that he will reappear, given that Andor will be in the heyday of the Empire’s control. Ian McDiarmid has revealed that he is not going to give up the role of Palpatine in the near future, despite the fact that his comments say otherwise. Only time will tell if an experienced performer will appear again after Obi-Wan Kenobi.